They say children under age six pick up new languages most quickly, but I’m not so sure. I’ve been hanging around the older crowd lately (OK, I am the older crowd) whose foreign-language skills seem strongly correlated to their age. I’m not sure what this new language is called, exactly, but I think it’s something like “gerontologese.” Mostly Latin-based, it’s sprinkled with lots of acronyms and, mercifully, a few English words.
Even I am picking up words in a hurry. For example, just months before I turned 50, I got “plantar fasciitis.” So, instead of saying my heels ached so much I could barely walk and standing for long periods of time was unbearable and how in the world was it fair that middle age women lose fat on their feet and gain it elsewhere, I’d just whip out those two little words—“plantar fasciitis”—and I’d get knowing responses. “Ahhhh, yes,” older folks would nod, slowly, “we understand.” I wondered, even though by now “astigmatism” and “cataract” have become household words, what people would say when I told them I had "presbyopia" and, worse, they were certain to get it, too. It's true. Like ducks in a shooting booth, we are eventually all knocked down by aging eye syndrome and have to buy reading glasses to get back in the game.
They say the best way to learn a new language is by speaking it, so occasionally I throw around the words I know, but sometimes I can hardly keep up, especially during those scary, rapid-fire conversations following a friend’s doctor visit. "He went in for a simple case of rhinorrhea, and the doctor found his allergens were triggering the production of IgE. Now they think he may have a rare form of acute myeloid leukemia."
Reading books isn’t much better. Honest to goodness, this is a sentence from a book I just read: “Di-indolemethane (DIM) is the most potent promoter of 2-hydosylase, the enzyme that helps to correct dysestrogenism by making more 2-hydroxy-estrone and 2-hydroxy-estradiol.” Usually big words don’t intimidate me, but I’m still a little new at this. The author had the nerve to follow up with “This is not neutraceutical mumbo jumbo.” Really?
Mostly, though, I’m holding my own. Just this month I contracted “lateral epicondylitis,” which, it turns out, is actually a misnomer since it’s an “-osis,” not an “-itis.” Believe it or not, as painful as it is to vacuum, pour water from a jug, or even bend my arm straight anymore, the pathophysiology does not involve any inflammation. No, tennis elbow is usually merely a result of chronic degenerative changes. In other words, I’m just getting old.
But don’t tell me an old dog can’t learn new tricks. I’m 51 and learning to speak a new language!